The clocked ticked, I squirmed in my seat, and I stared down at my math homework. My father, seated across from me at the kitchen table, sighed. This was a painful, daily ritual - me with my math homework, needing and resenting my dad’s help.

I hated, despised, deplored math. It mocked me, with it fractions and decimals. Dad, my opposite in many ways, was a math wiz. He majored in math in college. Who majors in math?

To Dad’s credit, he would start with a patient explanation of the math concept du jour. I would nod, pretending to understand. “Okay, now you do the next one,” he said. Then began a staring contest, as my brain tried to work out the correct answer. My battle with math reflected a battle with my father. He struggled to work with a daughter who was rather emotionally sensitive, and I fought to be embraced and understood by a logical, ration-loving father. This tug-of-war resulted in frustration on both sides.

During one afternoon of particularly excruciating math homework, I said to my dad, “You just want to win!” I can’t remember what specifically prompted those words, but I know that it came from a place of deep, long unspoken grievance within me.

My dad looked at me and said, “Larissa, I’m on your side.” At first I was confused. And then there was a wave of immense relief that swept over me. Despite not always understanding each other, my dad and I weren’t at war with each other. He was for me.

My relationship with my dad deviated from my relationship with math that day, undergoing a foundational shift toward a trusting alliance and friendship.

Math, however, continued to be a despised enemy.

I hated, despised, deplored math. It mocked me, with it fractions and decimals. Dad, my opposite in many ways, was a math wiz. He majored in math in college. Who majors in math?

To Dad’s credit, he would start with a patient explanation of the math concept du jour. I would nod, pretending to understand. “Okay, now you do the next one,” he said. Then began a staring contest, as my brain tried to work out the correct answer. My battle with math reflected a battle with my father. He struggled to work with a daughter who was rather emotionally sensitive, and I fought to be embraced and understood by a logical, ration-loving father. This tug-of-war resulted in frustration on both sides.

During one afternoon of particularly excruciating math homework, I said to my dad, “You just want to win!” I can’t remember what specifically prompted those words, but I know that it came from a place of deep, long unspoken grievance within me.

My dad looked at me and said, “Larissa, I’m on your side.” At first I was confused. And then there was a wave of immense relief that swept over me. Despite not always understanding each other, my dad and I weren’t at war with each other. He was for me.

My relationship with my dad deviated from my relationship with math that day, undergoing a foundational shift toward a trusting alliance and friendship.

Math, however, continued to be a despised enemy.